Multichannel Analog, Which TV, Upgrade Path
I read that if you let a Blu-ray player decode the new audio formats and send them to the receiver from the player's multichannel analog outputs, you bypass the receiver's crossover and equalization settings. Is this also the case when you use PCM over HDMI?
You are correct that, in most cases, the signals entering a receiver's multichannel analog inputs bypass the receiver's crossover (aka bass management) and other processing. However, PCM via HDMI normally does not bypass these functions. Thus, I generally recommend that you not use the player's multichannel analog outputs. Another reason to avoid them is the hassle of dealing with six or eight separate audio cables. If you're in the market for a new Blu-ray player, I would save some money and get one without these outputs.
I live in a small condo of 650 square feet, and I am in the market for a 42-47" LCD. Do you have a suggestion? My budget is $1200-1500.
My favorite LCDs from 2008 in your price range are the Samsung A650 and Sony W4100 series, both of which are available in the screen sizes you specify. I really dislike the Sony's onscreen menu system, but the Samsung has a much more reflective screen, which can be distracting when watching with the lights on.
My Blu-ray player is connected to my plasma via HDMI, and the picture is great. The audio is hooked up to my older receiver (no HDMI) via optical cable. Is it worth it to upgrade my receiver so I can take advantage of the new audio formats, or would it be better to upgrade my surround speakers? Will the sound that much better via HDMI? I'm also worried about how the receiver will handle the output of the HD signal, since the signal would come from the receiver and not the player.
In my informal tests, I have found that the new audio formats on Blu-ray sound noticeably better than a conventional optical output. However, some readers have pointed to blind studies that show most people—even those with trained ears—may not be able to tell the difference between the old lossy formats and the new lossless formats. Are you picky about audio quality? If not, the optical output is probably fine and upgrading your speakers might be the better way to go.
A good receiver can certainly handle the HD signal and won't harm the HDMI picture quality at all. The Pioneer Elite SC series and Onkyo receivers fall into this camp. The current Yamaha receivers sound very good, but they also negatively affect the video passing through them, so I wouldn't recommend them to you for that reason.
Update: Eagle-eye reader Roberto points out that his Onkyo TX-SR706 receiver does, in fact, clip above-white and below-black, which certainly harms the HDMI picture quality. I was mistaken that our reviews of the TX-SR606 and TX-SR806 tested for thisthey didn't. In fact, in his review of the 606 for UAV, David Vaughn commented that the receiver's video processing was not good in general, preferring to let other components in his system perform that task. Otherwise, the Onkyo receivers sound great and provide excellent value, but video isn't their strong suit.
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